Data. One word that can transform a company or cause it a big headache.
And according to Graeme Howard, the new chief technology and information officer (CTIO) at Covéa Insurance, it’s the future of technology, especially in the insurance world.
Howard has moved into his role as CTIO after spending his career working for companies such as Motorola and Santa Fe Relocation. His work has been all about innovation, which he wants to bring to the insurer.
“I worked in a number of different roles and in a number of different industries,” Howard explained. “But I see insurance as being one of the prime markets that can leverage all the disruptive technology available today and can make a very solid business case for utilising that technology.”
Howard believes that the insurance industry is exciting simply because there has been so little change in terms of technology, with many brokers and companies working the same way for 30 years. He wants to change things - and is itching to get going.
“For a long time insurance has been the same. I’ve done a lot of transformation roles at different companies where they’ve been transforming the whole time, but a lot of insurance companies are still operating on systems that they’ve been using for sort of 20, 30 years,” he explained.
“So, the opportunities to utilise a completely new technology platform and reimagine what insurance looks like are the exciting part for me.”
The CTIO says that the reason he moved to Covéa specifically, other than its people culture, is because he thinks it is the right organisation to spearhead this change.
“I think the whole market is very exciting and I think Covéa is positioned very well to leverage technology. They have bought into the power of technology and what it can do,” he explained.
“They are a big enough company to fund change, but not too big that change takes a huge amount of time. It can be quite hard for a company to pivot and move forward, but Covéa is the right size and has the right appetite and the timing is good to want to make changes.”
But the most enticing factor, Howard says, is how the insurance industry can use data to innovate.
“Data is king to add to the solution here [in the insurance industry]. We have a huge amount of data, and the tools are available now to leverage that information,” he explained. “You can ask customers a lot less questions and yet still have enough information to provide a good, solid quote. I think that’s a massive advancement. That’s really interesting.”
This has huge impacts, and if brokers and insurers can improve data collection and systems so that data is utilised more efficiently, it means happier clients who don’t have to fill in pages of paperwork, plus improved productivity for the industry.
There are, however, some concerns around the collection of data, and of course laws surrounding it that need to be adhered to.
“There’s a whole ethical piece around data,” Howard said. “I think one of the big pushes around it is around data governance and data utilisation. I think with GDPR coming in we have to make sure we’re using the data in the right manner.
“You have to provide a huge amount of information to get an insurance policy, so our aim is obviously to ouse that data only for the benefits it’s going to provide the customer.”
Ultimately, Howard says, as long as brokers and insurers have a good governance policy, they will be in the clear.
“I think having a really strong, ethical data governance strategy is really important to give customers the satisfaction that you’re using the data to help them, not against them or in a malicious way,” he explained.